Walt Disney World Fall 2016 Update

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Bonjour from France! We are at Marne-la-Vallée, having just finished the Disneyland Paris Half Marathon in the midst of our real-life “Impressions de Brickers” tour of locales featured in Impressions de France. There’s a lot to cover in terms of changes to Disneyland Paris since our last visit, and we’ll get to that in due time… 

However, we wanted to provide you with a few updates in the meantime from our recent “stopover” in Walt Disney World on the way here. Aside from the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party Recap and Booth Menus for Epcot Food & Wine Festival that we are in the process of posting/reviewing (more are still coming–internet connectivity has been a challenge!) we have a few other quick things to report.

In general, crowd levels were quite low during our visit, as has been the case all summer. If you’re getting giddy for low crowds during your own fall vacation to Walt Disney World this year…don’t. October should be a busy month–it definitely is at least in terms of the hotel bookings, but we also expect off-site guests to contribute to larger than normal crowds. A slight dip from the norm is possible for the Christmas season, particularly among semi-frequent visitors, many of whom took impulse trips to see the last year of Osborne Lights, and have no incentive to return this year.

In Magic Kingdom, the big ‘news’ is the ongoing work being done to Tomorrowland. The Carousel of Progress’ repainting complete, they’ve moved on to the rocks that line the entrance to the land, and are moving from the earthy, southwest tones here to something more akin to a moon planet of Venus, with metallic blue and purple hues. 

Processed with Snapseed.

It’s difficult to judge the unfinished product fully, but I like what I see thus far. I’d prefer the clean lines of the original Tomorrowland aesthetic (which, ironically, is timeless as compared to the tired current incarnation of the land), but I think going for a sci-fi alien planet look is a decent bandaid until Disney invests in a full scale overhaul of the land.

We also decided to pay our respects to Skippy in Stitch’s Great Escape, and did that for the first time in several years. With yesterday’s news that the attraction is going seasonal, it seems the new Wreck-It-Ralph Sugar Rush Racers replacement has been greenlit. It doesn’t exactly strike us as a good fit, but Stitch’s Great Escape is so reviled that this is one situation where any change (even a closure) is a good one. 

Aside from that and Halloween decorations, not much to report in Magic Kingdom. I also finally was able to dine at Be Our Guest Restaurant for dinner (in case you wondered why this post leads with a random photo of lamb), as we were able to score a same-day ADR! 

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Disney’s Hollywood Studios was a quick visit for us due to the current state of the park, but we had time to check out the construction status of Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land. Progress is finally being made removing the Streets of America, and it was a bit bittersweet. While I totally see why that area–a veritable ghost town during the day–is being repurposed, we have a lot of fond memories from there at Osborne Lights over the years.

In the more immediate future, work was continuing on PizzeRizzo, the restaurant replacing Pizza Planet. I’m really excited for this, and hope it’s the first of many placemaking efforts at Disney’s Hollywood Studios that will be packaged into the park’s relaunch. I know PizzeRizzo is supposed to open in “Fall 2016,” but I wouldn’t be surprised to see that date slip into Winter 2016. Looks like a lot of interior progress remains to be done.

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We didn’t spend a lot of time in Animal Kingdom this trip either, but we did attend a Disney Vacation Club 25th Anniversary party there one evening (will do a full report later), and it was quite fun. Progress on Pandora remains ongoing, and it’s really something to see the exterior in person from a distance outside the park. The scale of that land looks insane. We can’t wait.

The recent news with Animal Kingdom has been the end of Jungle Book: Alive with Magic, and I can’t say we are disappointed that it’s reign of terror is over (is anyone?). It’s a shame the show was so poor, because the performers really did give it their all. On the plus side, Rivers of Light was testing after-hours during the DVC 25th Anniversary party, and we watched the floats move out and some test patterns display. With the floats now working, it would seem the show should be ready sooner rather than later.

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Over in Epcot, Food & Wine Festival kicked off, with new decor and a couple of booths being upgraded to the designs to that fit organically within World Showcase. With as much ‘clutter’ as has been added around World Showcase in the last decade, these booths are a welcome addition and one that makes the festival seem less visually intrusive. It also appears new flowers have been planted and the park looks nice.

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Epcot is also quite clearly in a state of flux. I made sure to watch Universe of Energy twice, as I think there’s a decent chance that won’t be possible come the second week of January 2017. We were there for the last ever showing of Stormstruck (because this is what bloggers do, I guess?), and the closure of it and Sum of All Thrills means the majority of Innoventions now sits empty. This is quite clearly intentional, but the question of what Disney intends to do with these spaces going forward remains.

Will both sides be razed and new spaces built? Will the Guardians of the Galaxy attraction encroach into Innoventions territory near Universe of Energy? A lot of unknowns, and while we think Epcot needs help–and fast–we’re hopeful the Guardians of the Galaxy attraction slated for Future World is delayed and rethought. (At present, it’s on track to be announced in the next couple of months.)

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Rounding things out, there was more progress at Disney Springs, most notably Planet Hollywood’s transition from circa 1991 to circa 1930s (it may be a step back in time, but it’s most definitely a thematic step forward), while also adding a Guy Fieri menu (two steps forward, one step back…), and continuing progress on The Edison. We visited Disney Springs a couple of times to try new-to-us dining options.

At the resorts, construction remains ongoing at the Copper Creek Cabins at Wilderness Lodge. Other than that, no real “major” changes to report on since our last visit in July.

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Finally, we’ll leave you with some cheesiness. Above is a shot I took last Thursday at Walt Disney World, one of my favorite scenes in Impressions de France because it captures a quiet moment between a couple, and what I consider to be a “squad goal” (my attempt to keep up with the gibe of the kids these days) for Sarah and I. Well, two days later we recreated the shot ourselves while visiting Étretat…

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Thanks to our friend Mark Willard for capturing the shot. Also thanks to the kind French stranger who allowed us to use her dog for the photo. (After, we went to her house and met her cats…it’s a long story.) By the way, is anyone interested in reading an extend trip/race report from Disneyland Paris that also includes our Impressions de France filming location excursions? Considering doing it since there’s an Epcot connection, but not sure if any of you care. (No offense whatsoever if not–better to be honest than waste my time and yours!)

Alright, that does it for now! We dined at several new (to us) restaurants, stayed at a few different resorts, and have other specific topics to address, but thought we’d start with this high-level overview of some changes since our last visit. Throughout the week we’ll have some additional posts and updates, so stay tuned…

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Your Thoughts

Any thoughts on the latest updates at Walt Disney World? Any other news or rumors of your own to share? Share any questions, tips, or additional thoughts you have in the comments!


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